YERUSHALAYIM - In response to an Israeli media report that a possible deal was being discussed to release Jonathan Pollard, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that “There are no plans to release Jonathan Pollard at this time.”
But when asked to state unequivocally that Pollard’s imprisonment is not part of the current negotiations, Harf sidestepped the question by saying, “Look, I’m not going to get into any specifics confirming or not confirming one way or the other if any topic is on the table in these talks.”
Israel’s Army Radio had cited diplomatic sources in Yerushalayim saying that Secretary of State John Kerry and his staff proposed that the Palestinian Authority agree to extending peace talks until the end of the year and Israel would release 26 more prisoners, including 20 Israeli Arabs. Pollard would be released to secure the Israeli commitment to follow through on the last round.
Sources in the campaign to bring about Pollard’s release cautioned against giving up hope on Wednesday night, despite Psaki’s comment that some were interpreting as a denial.
The sources noted Psaki merely said that “there are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard,” and did not deny that a deal for Pollard could happen over the next few days.
The sources explained further that in years of efforts to bring about Pollard’s release there had never before been a situation in which the Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans all required Pollard’s release to serve their own interests.
“Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there are still intense discussions and negotiations going on behind the scenes in which the Pollard issue remains front and center,” the source said.
Pollard’s inclusion in a deal would likely result in getting a majority of the Israeli cabinet to approve the controversial Palestinian prisoner release.
Two ministers who were counted as voting against the release of Israeli Arab prisoners said they would vote in favor if Pollard is included, a source close to the ministers disclosed. That would make a majority in favor.
Pollard has already served over 29 years, 10,352 days, in prison for passing classified U.S. documents to Israel. No one else convicted of a comparable crime has been punished so harshly, and also given Pollard’s failing health, numerous former senior U.S. officials have come out in support of his release.